Most people who own dogs and form a strong bond with their animals regard the pets as family members rather than possessions. These are mutual, loving, strongly bonded and involved relationships between dogs and the people who care for them. Grieving the loss of your dog along with the loss of a long-term relationship in the form of marriage is an emotional double whammy.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that some states now recognize family pets as more humanlike property when involved in divorce proceedings. Nonetheless, these are groundbreaking developments and worth taking a closer look at.
In 2017, Alaska became the first state in the country to enact a formal pet-in-divorce law. Their bylaws state that the court has an obligation to consider the welfare of the animal during divorce proceedings. This is in contrast to simply treating a pet as an asset or property to be shared. The court would then be able to decide what essentially means sole custody of the animal by one party or the other, or continued joint custody.
The state of Illinois was next to join the train the following year. In 2019, another state joined the movement, California. However, in California there was a difference in the wording of the legislation. In this state, the court can examine the welfare of the animal, but is not formally obliged to do so.
Also remember that the laws regarding dogs in divorce cases apply to all family pets, not just your four-legged friends. They’re by far the most likely cause of a fight between a divorcing couple, but whether it’s a cat, bird, lizard, or something else, all pets can be treated the same.
When a state divorce court deals with the issue of who retains ownership of your dog, it may seem like a joke or exaggeration from the outside in, but from one dog owner to another it’s clearly an important step in the right direction. Don’t be surprised if several states are now making the transition legal.
In the meantime, however, keep in mind that these are only three out of fifty states that treat divorced dogs with their rights considered. If you live in any of the other 47 states, you live somewhere that does not legally or officially support such considerations.
As such, you must always consider any local laws that may apply and ensure that you work with a legal professional who has experience in your specific field or region. The topic of dogs and divorce cases is certainly not going away anytime soon, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates.
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